SARAH companion app for openHAB

After much refactoring and many new features, the latest version of SARAH is now available for download. SARAH is a web app used to control openHAB code and settings that comes with a pre-configured openHABian instance. It is a way to jumpstart your openHAB experience by giving you lots of functionality and allowing you to integrate your existing code, if you already have some. It also allows you to maintain settings and code on-going, if you choose.

1 Like

How did you determine “recommended Z-Wave”?

Zooz / thesmartesthouse.com has top-notch customer service and has assisted getting their products supported by openHAB.

I assume @Kai approves this advertisement…

Thanks, for asking. I’ve been working with z-wave products for two years now testing them continuously with various versions of openHAB and Raspberry Pi. I only recommend what I’ve tested.

I’ve been told by Foundation members to post 3rd party disucssions here, like the many others you see here.

2 Likes

I don’t know, I might be a little rusty, is this for real? I mean… really?

I don’t understand what you mean. Could you please explain?

Anyone can be a foundation member if they sign up, so there’s no seniority or authority attached to the status (as far as I’m aware). I’d probably be more concerned with how the moderators view posts like this one.

I have concerns that SARAH users will be enticed by the idea of not learning the basic openHAB concepts that we attempt to teach through setup and the tutorials. That’s fine if you’re going to build an offshoot community through your website (similar to the HestiaPi thermostat), which you appear to be doing. It won’t be fine if we start seeing SARAH users coming here and demanding help for SARAH-specific problems. And I can’t see us avoiding this kind of confusion, because you’re pointing to openHAB a lot from your website.

Will you help users when they have a failed upgrade, when myopenhab is down, or when they want to add a device that you haven’t personally tested? Or will you point them here, knowing that we’ll be frustrated by their lack of familiarity with basic principles of openHAB? That feels like a negative experience for everyone involved.

It’s similar to how some openHAB users post YouTube videos and write on their own blogs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when someone comes here and references a two-year-old video, we’re not in a position to support them. They need to ask the people who created the videos and blog posts, but it’s easier for them to ask the community.

I could totally be overthinking this, but it’s the impression I get after looking through your website.

As Bruce notes, the “Recommended things to buy” is a bit of a sticking point, since your page could suggest to people that openHAB is very limited (though I know that’s not your intention). I’d probably change that to “Tested with SARAH” or something like that.

I’m also hesitant about advertising SARAH as an alarm system, because openHAB is not sufficient for that purpose (as is said many times in this forum). If someone really needs an alarm system, they should install a proper system that can’t be disabled by pulling the plug. I think you need some disclaimers (which I may have just missed seeing).

Most of all, I’m concerned that this doesn’t feel like it lines up with openHAB’s vision and philosophy.

openHAB is highly flexible and customizable, but this comes at a cost. You have to invest some time for learning its concepts and to set up an individual system tailored to your needs. Many parts of the setup require textual configuration, potentially accessing log files for debugging, etc. Therefore setting up openHAB is mainly a job for tech-savvy people - it is not a commercial off-the-shelf product that you plug in and that is ready to go.

Instead, you’ve said this.

S.A.R.A.H. gives you a fully functioning system with all the basic features right out of the chute in minutes instead of months, so you can focus on the really cool stuff.

I’m not saying that you’re commercializing openHAB, but I worry that you’re opening the door to people who just want SmartThings and assuming that we’ll take care of them. I’ll help if they’ve learned openHAB concepts (or at least show an interest and effort), but not if they say, "I use SARAH so I don’t have to know that’.

It’s important to note that some users have commercialized openHAB by building custom systems for clients. The difference is that the system builders provide direct support and maintenance, so we never see the clients popping in here and asking questions.

I don’t see anything wrong with you producing SARAH and commend your efforts. However, if your intention is for new users to learn very little about openHAB and then come here for support, then you’re potentially burdening and taking advantage of our members. I would have preferred that you share your knowledge and expertise within this community (as you did recently with your garage door solution) instead of branding your own version of openHAB.

I respect your choice and wish you well with it, but if anyone asks me then I’ll politely say that SARAH users need to learn how openHAB works, or look for answers in the SARAH community. :slight_smile:

4 Likes

This was discussed previously months ago.

Hi Russ, Thank you for your very thoughtful writeup. Let me try to give you an equally thoughtful response. You bring up many points that seem to revolve around a couple of key areas: The user’s experience and support. The intent of SARAH was truly never to rob users of the experience of understanding openHAB, but rather, how can it help the openHAB community. How can I give back to it for what I have gotten out of it thus far. I truly think openHAB is an amazing platform, and wanted to try and help increase its adoption by giving people a working example. That’s how much I believe in it. As a technologist, I clearly see its potential and want to share that experience.

Conceptually, I more think of it as providing a demo home, in essence, like if it were a massive installer that configured their openHABian to include a demo called SARAH. It is a fully functioning starting place, but still for the tinkerer as I mention on the site. The goal was to provide working examples for people who like to play and test and extend. To give users useful answers all in one place for a certain level of functionality. Not, to provide the “be all, end all” solution, but a starting place that will entice people to take it farther. To get people excited by helping them through the initial frustration, not to take away the experience altogether. But, I understand what you are saying. I just hope that it’s not true. That it would not, in the end, detract from the user’s experience.

I understand that openHAB was designed for the tinkerer and that specifically is the user base; people who want to play with technology. So, I have to assume that is who would be using SARAH. So, I angled the design to that end. All, these solutions are open and extensible and serve as a working example.

As far as support is concerned, I fully expect to support all of what SARAH is, primarily a set of textual files and a web app. But in the end, all of it’s functionality and even a bit farther. I would expect I would not support anything it does not provide, as in your example, because I did not help them along that journey. And, as you described, as long as they are walking that path the community is willing the help. That makes sense to me as well. I did try to outline some of this, but perhaps not clearly enough.

In regards to the “Recommended things to buy” and the alarm system, I can certainly see your point and will add some disclaimers as you suggest. I want to be as transparent as I can.

I hope that helps to at least elucidate my thoughts and the general concepts behind them. That you bring up such points, I am not truly certain where this will go, but I hope that people will try it and judge for themselves. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this in some detail.

4 Likes

i did not notice if you mentioned, but be sure to caution that Z-Wave is region-specific. Not all devices are available for all regions. Zooz, for instance, is just US & Canada.

I appreciate your good intentions, and I definitely saw it in your website. Apologies if that wasn’t clear. I think my concerns are more about unintended consequences that will impact both SARAH users and the larger openHAB community.

This being the case, I think you’ve offered too much functionality. If you include as many components as you have (with instructions that in some case mirror openHAB documentation), then there’s no incentive for many users to learn about openHAB or look at the documentation until something breaks. So, I think the difference is that you’re assuming users will get a SARAH system set up, and then go back to basics with openHAB. In contrast, I’m assuming that some/many of them won’t care to learn more than the bare minimum required to use the system. And I don’t mean this as an insult to the users–I know that my car needs to have its oil changed, but I have no interest in doing it myself. I just want to drive the car and pay someone to change my oil. I’m concerned about people like me. :wink:

I think it would be better if you limited the functionality to give people the idea of what they can do with openHAB, beyond which it’s clear that they need to dig into openHAB to do more. I’ve advocated for this concept in other threads, which means I largely agree with what you’re trying to do. I just don’t agree with your approach of building a separate website with separate instructions and a separate forum, and promoting it as a shortcut to getting started.

Again, this is just my opinion.

I don’t agree with this statement. SARAH users are going to have problems with failed upgrades, remote access, bindings, and all sorts of things that go beyond the config files you’re providing. Z-Wave alone is a challenge, generating regular pleas for help. Google constantly changes things that break Google Assistant functionality, and we hear about it here. So, I don’t think you can say “I did not help them along that journey” when you provided a custom starting point that enables them to skip past all of the basics. That would be no different than me setting up openHABian for my brother and then telling him to figure it out himself when something goes wrong.

What it comes down to is that SARAH presents as an experience that is based on, but separate from, openHAB. I know that’s not your intention, but it’s hard for me to feel otherwise given the lengths you’ve gone to with your website. The only way for SARAH users to stay exclusively in the SARAH community is if they never attempt to upgrade openHAB, never add functionality that you haven’t provided, and never use myopenhab. That’s unlikely.

I think the way around that is to set very clear expectations up front, so that SARAH users don’t feel you’ve promised more than you (or the openHAB community) are willing to deliver. I wouldn’t have a problem walking away from my brother if I told him up front that I won’t be able to provide support when he runs into trouble, and he’ll have to learn how openHAB works and join the community to maintain/upgrade it. Then he could decide whether or not he wants to do it. So, I’d suggest some edits to this effect.

Anyway, that’s what I think. I work in marketing/communications, and what I always tell people when I edit documents/websites is that they’re welcome to take what they like and ignore what they don’t. I’m more than happy to discuss further if you’d like, but otherwise I’ll leave you to it.

Cheers!

I expect people will use your preconfigured solution & seek help here when OH breaks. They will not realize the SARAH config may be the issue and we are not familiar either.

Here we help people understand their own systems and try NOT to give them total solutions.If they are given a total solution they expect the solution provider to support it. I see dragons ahead for both groups if this becomes popular with novices.

1 Like

Russ, Thanks again for your input and I do appreciate what you’re saying. I’m not sure where I’m going to with it all, but I will think it through and come to some decisions as to how I should proceed. Again, thanks for all your insights.

1 Like

Yes, that is fine in general. I’d suggest to not use this category as an “annoucements” channel for releases, giveaway contests, etc. as the title of this topic seems to do.
It is fine to tell the openHAB community about the existence of SARAH and discuss how it related to openHAB and what people can and should expect from it. Any further threads, such as SARAH support, release announcements, etc. should then rather happen on your own website in the scope of its own community.
I’ve thus taken the freedom to adapt the title to be more in line with this (SEPIA is also a good example/reference for this).

2 Likes

Kai, Thank you for setting the record straight. I will do as you prescribe.

1 Like

I would be willing to try it, but I am unwilling to burn a need sd card to do so.

Is there a way to install directly from git hub or apt? If not this would be a good feature to add. The reason I am unwilling to burn a new sd card is because I already have a fully working system. It would tak me a considerable time to move all my comforts over and configure dependencies like mqtt and deconz.

HI Danny, At this time it is the only way. You can do a backup and restore, though, to get all your things and settings over. I found a simple way to do this… I can tell you about it, if you’re interested… Thanks!

On another note… if you wish to pursue this, I highly recommend we take this to my site. Thanks, again.

Hi Russ, Just to offer my final thoughts… Again, I truly appreciate your thoughtful approach to this. I am going to very respectfully disagree with some of what you said, though. I think that people will seek their own experiences and take away what they will. The functionality provided will be appreciated or not based on where they are with openHAB. Some will love it, others will have already done it all. And, for those who might take it as the end of thier journey, which I don’t find likely based on the average openHAB user, they will find their support on my site. Eventually, we will even have people helping each other as they do here. If it gets that far. Also, they don’t have to use SARAH in that manner, they will be able to just download the textual files and take from them what they will without fully implementing SARAH. So, I don’t think this will be an issue.
I do like the the idea about sharing functionality to users here and will continue to look for oprtunities to do so, like the garage door solution. I would love to think of more ways of doing this. Perhaps, even integrating parts of SARAH into the openHABian base image??
What you are describing about failed upgrades really just amounts to managing dependencies, which is very common across FOSS and other software. People will either take their chances as we all do and face the consequences of a failed build, which is not unique to SARAH. If it breaks it breaks for everyone. Or, they can follow my advice on when it is safe to upgrade. Again, not really specific to SARAH, but I can help them to manage that. Either way, they can get support from my site. I have already expereinced this behaviour with openHAB a couple of times now and expected it would have to be dealt with just like any other dependency.
I don’t believe I have yet to come across a tecnological situation that can’t be managed one way of the other. It just comes down to finding that just right solution that works for what you are trying to accomplish.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure how successful or not this will be. But, for now I think I need to see what people think of it and go from there. Thanks, again for bringing up these points. Very good conversation!

2 Likes

uhhhh… no
I’ve been here about as long as you have cr. It does not break for everyone is what I have seen. In fact, Ive seen times when a stable build works for most, but a few have huge problems which breaks their setup. A lot of times, the problems only occurs from different combinations of bindings being used or different configurations of the same bindings.
The REST api breaking awhile back would be a great example. It worked for most, but a few, it did not. Often, users having problems would list which bindings they were using and others without the problem would state they used those same bindings. The problem was finally found by one user extensively testing the order in which bindings were loaded and it was fixed.
Russ and Bruce both spend huge amounts of their own personal time supporting users on this forum. I believe the issues both raise in this thread are because they see you creating a situation where some of your future users may be misled into think this is a plug and play solution and that once installed, it will work for the foreseeable future without intervention. Typically a user who is unfamiliar with OpenHAB are those most likely to blindly trust the system to do things which losing that functionality causes huge problems (I can’t turn my lights on and off)
You can’t control what users are going to do, what hardware they are going to run on or how much they are going to take for granted. If you think you can create a ‘fool proof’ setup, you clearly do not realize the world’s potential for creating better fools. If your product is just a starting point, which allows a new user to get a running instance set up in order to play with it and learn and clearly stated as such, and that users are expected to only use it as an introduction to OpenHAB, then there might be some value. If your product is a web interface for OpenHAB, then some may find use for that. I your product is merely a way of using OpenHAB to try to drive traffic to your own website for your own benefit, then I believe you will meet continued resistance from this community.
I haven’t checked out your website but from what the others say, I’d be very worried about offering burglar alarm functionality in your set up. There is a huge liability there.

2 Likes

Hi Andrew, I think I’ve pretty clear about the intent, so I’m not sure why you are going there. I’m really not talking about fool-proof solutions. I don’t believe you can control what people do. I’m just trying to say that there is always a way to manage technology.